Whose Side Are You On?

The Commonwealth’s anti-kid Union bosses are up on Beacon Hill whining this week — this time in support of a bill filed by State Representative Majorie Decker that would allow unions to force schools to keep ineffective teachers in place after they have driven a school so far into the ground that the state is forced to take it over:
To be clear — I like Marjorie a lot — especially on homeless issues. But this bill? Absolute insanity. INSANITY.
The labor leaders asked the Committee on Public Service to advance the bill (H 1364) filed by Cambridge Democrat Rep. Marjorie Decker that would roll back a provision of a 2010 education reform law, which was aimed at closing the achievement gap and unlocking federal education funds.
“The Legislature gave the Commissioner far-reaching powers” to provide for “rapid academic achievement,” Alvarez wrote in the Appeals Court brief, summarizing the statute.
Intended to mesh with the Obama administration’s educational goals, the 2010 law passed the Senate 23-12 and the House 97-47 with the backing of former Gov. Deval Patrick.
A committee summary of Decker’s bill, which has the backing of nine other Democrats including New Bedford Rep. Antonio Cabral, says it would eliminate a provision of the law allowing the education commissioner to “strip bargaining rights from school district employees” in a turnaround plan.
So let me get this straight.
When a school has done so poorly over a series of years — sometimes more than a generation of students lost — to the point where we need the state to come in and take it over because it is failing the children to such a horrific point that it borders on a civil rights violation, our priority still should not be on fixing the school so that kids actually get a shot at a decent education, but instead on protecting the adults in the building who have been systematically failing these children. Here’s the quote from the President of the AFL-CIO, Steve Tolman:
“The guy in the Corner Office who refuses to raise any taxes, but he says it’s OK to screw public employees,” said Tolman, who voiced his support for a few bills before the committee. “Well together, we have to stand up against that, and stand up for justice for public employees.”
Screw public employees? EXCUSE ME? What about the CHILDREN who are getting screwed in failing schools?
Justice for public employees?
WHO IS STANDING UP FOR JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN? I’ll tell you, it’s not Steve Tolman.

 (Here’s a picture of me and Steve having our last discussion about putting kids first in education. As you can see, it went well.)
It seems our judicial system is the only one standing up for them …
Attorneys for the teachers in their brief to the Appeals Court said Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester’s plans for turning around the schools changed the teachers’ “wages, hours, and conditions of employment.” The union lawyers took issue with the procedures followed, but lawyers for the state argued the dismissal should be upheld.
“The Superior Court concluded that the Unions lacked standing to challenge the plans here, because their alleged injuries fall outside the Act’s area of concern, which is students, not teachers or unions,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Iraida Alvarez. “This decision was correct and should be affirmed.”
Can you imagine? According to the court — our education system is supposed to be focused on the children — not the teacher’s union. What an AMAZING idea! 
And the disastrous union contracts that local politicians have negotiated out of fear of political retribution that has created a system that is more concerned with the wants of adults above the needs of children? When you have so neglected your obligation to your community and the children who have a constitutional right to a high quality education — the state is well within it’s right to intervene and wipe it all out! No one gave local school committees the authority to bargain away our children’s right to a high quality education.
But Steve’s comments are the perfect example of what is wrong with this whole situation. This has nothing to do with what’s best for children — they aren’t even a part of the equation. We don’t care that these kids are suffering in failing schools, it’s all about being fair to adults and making sure they don’t have to justify doing a crap job for generations. (And excuse me for saying so — but the guy sputtering about the rights of public workers being paramount in this discussion lives in Brighton — and of course, his children did not attend Boston Public Schools. And yes, this is important and relevant.)
“School reforms work best when they are done with teachers not to them,” Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni told the Committee on Public Service.
Madeloni said teachers with years of experience have been required to reapply for their jobs after the state took over their schools. She told the News Service, “Teachers who have been in schools for 20, 25 years are being told that they’re not good enough and they have to leave.”
You’re damn right, Barbara. A teacher who has been failing kids for 20-25 years and is failing children is *not* good enough and has to leave.
When school are failing, one of the major reasons is poor leadership and a lack of high quality educators.
We know that one of the most effective ways of turning around a school is to demand leadership change with direct capital investment in schools — plus giving the new leadership of the school the ability to select the educators best positioned to take the schools in a new direction.
I’m not saying all teachers are bad — but even union teachers will tell you — there are many folks teaching in our state right now who have no reason being in a classroom. They are checked out, too comfortable, riding the wave to retirement. But let’s be clear — the union isn’t out for what’s best for our education system. They’re out to protect their members. First and always.
(As a side note: as the head of a parent union, a former union member and staffer for a major labor union — some have asked me how I can be a labor activist and call them out at the same time.
It’s simple. I’m a grown-up. I don’t love unions like a three-year-old loves his Mommy — thinking they are completely perfect and totally incapable of being wrong about anything. My love for unions is more like how a mother loves their 15-year-old child — there’s a hell of a lot of good there and gosh, do I love you, but there is a lot that needs still needs work and improvement. And to be clear — there are many, many unions in the Commonwealth who think these folks are insane and do not agree with them on education AT ALL. Without a solid K-12 education, kids don’t join the trades and don’t join unions.) 
A vote for Majorie’s bill is a vote against children. Period. 
What do you think?

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